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  • John Flansburg and John Linnell. Photo: Shervin Lainez.

    John Flansburg and John Linnell. Photo: Shervin Lainez.

  • John Flansburg and John Linnell. Photo: Shervin Lainez.

    John Flansburg and John Linnell. Photo: Shervin Lainez.



If you go
What: They Might Be Giants
When: 8 p.m. Thursday
Where: Boulder Theater, 2032 14th St., Boulder, 303-786-7030
Cost: $32-$37

They Might Be Giants, you might have noticed, are creatively insatiable.

It’s a must-have quality for musicians, if they want to work successfully for as long as They Might Be Giants have, but it seems like these guys have something different. They don’t talk about their work like, well, work. There’s no brooding artist attitude, no high talk of pushing the boundaries of their craft. Instead, their creative pursuits seem like they’re driven by curiosity and a sense of adventure.

“We like doing this, you know,” accordion and saxophone player John Linnell said. “I think we still sort of feel like each time we try it we think, ‘Yeah there’s another way we can do this,’ and it’s really tantalizing to think that there’s another way we can do this or there’s a song we haven’t written.”

The sheer volume of music the band puts out is astonishing. Linnell and guitarist John Flansburg have released 15 studio albums, 20 EPs and seven live albums since 1986. For a point of comparison, consider that Michael Jackson, the King of Pop, released 11 studio albums in 40 years as a solo artist. (Yes, yes, he did a lot of incredible stuff, but that’s not the point here.)

Even with that kind of output in a relatively short period of time — on top of touring, making videos and recording podcasts – Linnell and Flansburg have not slowed down. Their latest album, Join Us, was released this past July. It’s their eighth record in the past 10 years. If it seems like they haven’t been heard from in ages, it’s probably because their last two albums were for kids. The Else was their last regular album before that, and it came out in 2007.

“I feel like we blinked — I feel like it was 2007 a couple months ago,” Linnell said. “(We) never decided not to do the regular stuff. We had two kids projects in a row. Usually we alternate between the grown-up and the kids projects, but this time we had two in a row.”

They Might Be Giants are touring in the wake of Join Us until Thanksgiving, and then some more in February and March, but this week they released a collection of what Linnell called “scraps and rarities” titled Album Raises New and Troubling Questions. The schedule looks frantic and overwhelming, but Linnell talks as though it all just happens by accident

“We don’t feel as much of an urgency to put stuff out instantly,” he said. Putting stuff out differently is more up the band’s alley, anyway. Linnell and Flansburg have found nearly every way possible to distribute their music.

First, it was Dial-A-Song. In 1983, three years before their first album, the duo recorded their music on an answering machine. All anyone had to do to hear a They Might Be Giants song, and even leave a message, was call the number.

“It seemed like this kind of appealing way of finding another root to reach, particularly people who never leave their homes, people who are stuck at work,” Linnell said. “For a while we were taking messages and checking out what people had to say, but it eventually got to be too much work.”

In 2000, the service went digital on, but that eventually died. Not that it mattered. By 2004, They Might Be Giants were one of the first bands with their own online music store, and in 2005, they started doing podcasts. Meanwhile, the majority of their peers were crying in outrage that digitalization would be the death of the music industry.

“We were not in any way opposed to putting stuff out digitally and in some ways maybe it was part of what we’ve been doing all along,” Linnell said. “We were not resistant to it and it wasn’t that we were especially into digital over anything else. We actually still really like vinyl as a medium.”

When They Might Be Giants finish their current tour with in March, Linnell and Flansburg plan to start writing and recording again in April. But as far as creative new release tactics go, Linnell said they’d have some brainstorming to do.

“…we haven’t tried skywriting yet.”

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